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Chronic Condition News

January 2014

Getting Personal About Diabetes and Nutrition

What you eat plays an important part in how well you manage your diabetes. For the best blood sugar control, is it better to follow a Mediterranean diet? What about becoming a vegetarian? The latest nutrition guidelines from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) decipher this diet dilemma. They also dish out other nutrition basics.


Personalized eating patterns

The ADA reviewed numerous scientific studies to develop its updated recommendations on nutrition. One major conclusion: No diet—or more appropriately, eating pattern—works best for all people with diabetes. In fact, research shows several eating patterns can effectively control the disease. These include:

  • A Mediterranean-style diet

  • A plant-based diet

  • A low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet

  • The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet

What does this finding mean for you? You should work with your doctor to figure out the best eating pattern for you based on your needs. It may be one of the above or another strategy. Choose one that melds with your preferences, including your culture and beliefs. It should also support your specific health goals. For instance, if you have high blood pressure, you may want to try the DASH diet.

Nutrition therapy and more

The ADA also recommends people with diabetes have medical nutrition therapy (MNT). It's especially important for those newly diagnosed with the disease. The ADA reviewed 18 clinical studies that looked at the use of MNT in managing type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In trials that were randomized, the group found that MNT did help to manage diabetes. .

During MNT, a registered dietitian reviews your eating habits and nutritional health. He or she then develops nutrition goals and a personalized meal plan for you. Many insurance companies cover several sessions of MNT. The initial visit typically lasts 45 to 90 minutes.

Along with MNT, the ADA's guidelines include direction on key nutrition basics. Here are a few:

  • Choose good carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your eating pattern. Avoid those high in sugar and fat.

  • Stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages like soda. They can contribute to weight gain.

  • Cut your salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend a lower daily limit.

  • Skip vitamin and mineral supplements. Research doesn't support their safety and effectiveness for people with diabetes.

It's not only what you eat. How you prepare food matters, too. Read this article for some healthy cooking tips. 

Your Diet May Help Prevent Kidney Disease 

Cheers to a healthy diet: It can curb kidney disease. In a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked for 5 years the eating habits of more than 6,300 people with type 2 diabetes. Those who ate at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a week and limited their alcohol intake were less likely to develop kidney problems.

Kidney disease is a serious complication. It happens when diabetes damages blood vessels in the kidneys. As a result, your kidneys can’t properly clean your blood. Over time, your kidneys may fail.

Online resources

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

American Diabetes Association

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